CVS engaging with AGs on retail theft; working to 'dismantle these criminal operations'

Retailers lost over $112B in 2022 due to theft

CVS CEO Karen Lynch said the company is working with attorneys general in order to try and stop the brazen retail theft that is proliferating the industry. 

While speaking with "CBS Evening News" on Wednesday, Lynch explained that less expensive products are even locked up because thieves are coming in and "ripping through…the entire counter." She recalled watching a clip of a car driving through the front door of one of its stores at night. Six men jumped out and "ransacked the entire CVS," she recalled. 

The company has implemented new safety measures over the last few years. However, Lynch said they are also "working very closely with law enforcement and with attorneys general because they're not being prosecuted, and they need to be."

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Retailers across the industry have been ramping up efforts to combat organized retail crime, which has grown in scope and complexity in recent years, and continues to take a hefty bite out of profits. 

Target, for instance, projected last year that it would face a more than $500 million hit in profits due to retail theft that is worsening at its stores. 

In 2022, these thefts, many of which have garnered national attention, cost retailers about $112.1 billion in overall losses, according to data from the 2023 National Retail Security Survey. That is up from $93.9 billion in losses in 2021 and $90.8 billion in 2020. 

CVS locked up products

Locked up to prevent theft, energy drinks are seen in the refrigerated aisle at a CVS Pharmacy in Queens, New York. (Lindsey Nicholson/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images / Getty Images)

A CVS spokesperson told FOX Business that organized retail crime (ORC) has been challenging industry-wide and that it's been working with law enforcement on these matters, including attorneys general offices.

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"We are a national leader in the fight against ORC. We partner with federal, state, and local law enforcement — as well as with other retailers — to identify and dismantle these criminal operations," the CVS spokesperson said. 

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Its ORC team has already dismantled dozens of large-scale national criminal organizations and its security measures in place "are continually reviewed to help ensure our stores remain safe environments to work, shop and fill prescriptions," the spokesperson continued. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF), the largest retail trade group in the nation, told FOX Business that retailers across the industry regularly collaborate with law enforcement at all levels to address these crimes as well as to ensure the safety of their employees, customers and local communities. 

CVS

A sign marks the location of a new CVS pharmacy in Chicago on May 5, 2004. (Scott Olson/Getty Images / Getty Images)

However, David Johnston, vice president of asset protection and retail operations for the NRF, previously told FOX Business retailers are only part of the equation. 

"We have to take a really good look at what got us here. And there are a lot of things that got us to this point, some of them inclusive of individual states making changes to how they react to shoplifting," Johnston said. 

He noted that some states have raised the monetary threshold that would bring about a felony charge.

In some states, if it falls under a misdemeanor crime like shoplifting, offenders may only be served a citation, which is a notice to appear in court, according to Johnston.

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"There needs to be appropriate consequences to those who are stealing for financial gain and supporting [organized retail crime]," he said. 

CVS locked up products

Locked up items to prevent shoplifting and an assistance button are seen at a Duane Reade drugstore and pharmacy in New York City on Aug. 24, 2023. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The NRF is advocating for lawmakers to pass the bipartisan Combating Organized Retail Crime Act, which would effectively increase coordination between law enforcement agencies at every level and establish a federal Organized Retail Crime Coordination Center.

CVS noted that it is a supporter of the INFORM Consumer Act, which is designed to make it more difficult for organized retail crime groups to sell illicit goods through online marketplaces like Amazon or Facebook.